Spotlight on Arts for LA Partner MonaLisa Whitaker at Inglewood Cultural Arts

Thu, 03/21/2013 - 10:35am

Photo: MonaLisa WhitakerThis story originally appeared in Arts for All's March newsletter.  We thank them for allowing us to repost it here.

Inglewood resident MonaLisa Whitaker was fortunate to have been exposed to the arts as a child. Her mother painted, and she had art instruction in the lower grades. But it was in high school that she discovered her true passion: photography. 

Whitaker took a class with esteemed artist and photo-educator, Larry Shapiro, who encouraged his students to see as much art as possible while they were learning. Whitaker would check out art books from the library and go to museums. Shapiro also encouraged her to apply to California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). ** She was accepted and says that that the experience changed her life.

“I was surrounded by other artists my age, other disciplines,” Whitaker says.  “I was completely immersed. It was heaven!”

Fast forward to present day and that student is now the Executive Director of Inglewood Cultural Arts (ICA) and a fine art photographer. ICA works to infuse the arts into all facets of Inglewood society and, for more than a decade, Whitaker has been one of the superheroes of the local arts community.

“The knowledge I gathered as a student opened my mind to the possibilities of how photography and other mediums can be powerful tools to make things better,” she says. 

Whitaker sees arts education as a necessity for both students and adults. She looks at the multiple benefits that the arts can have within the community and notes that there seems to be a hunger for the arts in Inglewood. She believes the arts can teach us how similar we are, help us understand each other and enable us to realize our full potential both individually and collectively.

She is passionate about the arts in schools and knows they are a necessary component for a balanced education. “We want our youth to grow up, be productive and do their part in improving the world. Exposing them to the arts is one way to ensure this,” says the mother of two. “The arts are not frill!”

Inglewood Unified School District recently renewed their participation in Arts for All. Concurrently, Arts for LA, advocacy partner for Arts for All, is actively building relationships through the Inglewood community.
“I want the arts in all aspects of Inglewood life -- in school as a fundamental part of the daily curriculum and out of school in the public realm,” says Whitaker. “I want to see art everywhere a person goes, whether it’s to school, the grocery store, the post office or the park…we should see it all the time!”

**To find out more about CSSSA go to